Weekend Review: Waiting for "Superman" Dir. by Davis Guggenheim

Waiting for "Superman"To open his documentary, Waiting for "Superman", Davis Guggenheim shares with us a confession. While he believes in the value of the public school system, he drives past several community schools every day when he takes his own children to a private school. When one's own children's future is on the line, reconciling one's values with one's actions can be a challenge. But, what if he didn't have the privilege of sending his kids to a private school? What if his child was one of the millions of children who don't have a choice? What if he, like Ohio mom Kelly Williams-Bolar, faced jail time for trying to send his kids to a better school?

The film's title comes from a memory told by educator Geoffrey Canada in which his childhood hope of being rescued from his dangerous neighborhood and his bleak future by Superman is crushed when he discovers that the character is not real. "Who will save us now?" he asks. What follows is an exploration of the evolution of the public school system; at its best, the most successful social program and at its worst a dropout factory that creates and sustains impoverished communities. To humanize the story, Guggenheim also follows four students who are trying to increase their odds of getting into college and making a better life for themselves by entering into lotteries for slots at charter schools. Even these students, whose parents or guardians are active in their education and work hard to help their children succeed, are slowly slipping behind by virtue of the education to which they have access.

Guggenheim finds plenty of fault to go around - no one is left off the hook - and does a good job of presenting and explaining the many facets of this problem. It's a somewhat depressing story, though. Other than "get involved in your community" there really is no solution that's offered. For a cogent, well researched and intelligently discussed look at the public school system, though, this film gets an "A."


  1. I have not desire to see the move because like you said it's depressing. Which I have seen snoppets and the research is good but it paints a bleak future for children's. If people thinking getting into a charter school is going to save them well speaking from experience my advice beware.

  2. I just watched that movie a few weeks ago and it was totally depressing. I go back and forth between thinking I should homeschool my kids and realizing that I don't really have the space, the time or the patience to be with them ALL day EVERY day without a break. But then films like the one above renew my thoughts that I, ultimately, am responsible for my children's education, and I hate to throw them into a school system that isn't working. Yikes. At least I have a few more years to figure this one out....

  3. Ah...I so want to see this. Also The Race To Nowhere. Ultimately it is why we home school. There isn't a perfect choice for any child, including homeschooling, but the one thing I wanted my kids to learn the most is that they were not one of a herd. They could think out of the box. I think schools need kids to be 'in' the box. I don't think everyone can choose that or has good options otherwise, which I think is one of the huge tarnish marks on the US of A right now, an equal quality education for all...


  4. The PTA is showing this at my school next week- looking forward to going to see it.

  5. yup... the perfect example of why we do NOT need the Department of Education.

    If you are looking for a solution to this problem, get the government OUT of the school system and return the power to the local level... to the parents!!! Then we can once again return to good schools where teachers are judged on merit and not on their "time in service". and where the people have a say in what goes on in their local schools.

    when schools have to start operating as the people demand them to, they will start to compete with each other to keep their students. this is as it should be!

    oh, yes, but then we will also have to get the teacher's unions out of the schools. for the life of me, i can't see why public sector workers should be allowed to unionize. they are working for us, the people! good grief. those teachers in wisconsin act like crybabies. they are making twice the money and have much better retirement plans than the people they are working for... the average person in their school district!!! wisconsin is broke. they have no more money. something's gotta give!